Protolabs Receives 6th Consecutive NAM Manufacturing Leadership Award

Posted On August 14, 2020 By Sarah Ekenberg

Digital manufacturing is an ever-evolving, multi-faceted, and complex industry. And it’s all driven by what drives every industry: the customer wants the best quality product for the best possible price in the fastest possible time to best serve end-users. We firmly believe that in order to continue to move the industry forward and continually keep it at the top of its capabilities, it’s necessary to embed ourselves into, and partner and collaborate with, other like-minded organizations.

Each year, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recognizes leaders who are shaping the future of global manufacturing. We are excited to announce that our company was recently selected by a panel of expert judges as a recipient of the award’s Collaborative Innovation Leadership category, which “honors manufacturers who utilize far-reaching collaboration techniques and technologies to achieve significant improvements in product and service development, production, and other processes, and engage employees, customers, and partners to accelerate ideation, innovation, and invention.” This marks our sixth consecutive NAM Manufacturing Leadership Award win, receiving recognition in different categories each year. See details about previous years’ accolades at the end of this post.

National Association of Manufacturers
Each year, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recognizes leaders who are shaping the future of global manufacturing. Our company was recently selected as a recipient of the award’s Collaborative Innovation Leadership category. This marks our sixth consecutive NAM Manufacturing Leadership Award win, receiving recognition in different categories each year.

As a pioneer in digital manufacturing, we entered into and disrupted the marketplace more than 21 years ago, and it is in our DNA to continually advance the industry. Since day one, we’ve sought ways to best deliver solutions for our customers, and that has often been rooted in knowledge exchanges.

We are committed to advancing the manufacturing industry and providing the services and expertise that, through digital manufacturing, allow companies to accelerate time to market, reduce development and production costs, and minimize risk throughout the product life cycle.

Collaboration Advances Industry

We engage in a number of collaboration opportunities to ensure we remain at the top of the class as a manufacturing service provider that product developers can rely on, and also do our part to share our deep knowledge with other leaders to continue to advance the industry. The following examples of our collaboration were acknowledged as part of this year’s award:

America Makes: We are a member of America Makes, a consortium that is part of the federal government’s Manufacturing USA program, which is dedicated to the acceleration and adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing innovation to increase American competitiveness, re-establish manufacturing as the heart of economic growth, and boost employment and quality of life.

We are one of roughly 200 members of this initiative; a selection of other members include NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Commerce, Ford Motor Company, Lockheed Martin, and 3M. There are many opportunities for us to collaborate with other members to exchange additive manufacturing information and research, develop, evaluate, and deploy new technologies, and pursue education and training resources.

MIT APT: We are a founding member of MIT’s Center for Additive and Digital Advanced Production Technologies (APT). The group is focused on scaling new manufacturing technology through research and education, bringing together the best minds in academia and industry.

APT’s initial efforts support exploratory research projects with faculty and graduate students, and accelerating the establishment of a new, advanced additive manufacturing laboratory at MIT. APT activities also complement MIT’s leading AM education programs like Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production, an online certificate program offered by MITxPRO with manufacturing and engineering support from us. Other founding members of APT include Autodesk, General Motors, and Volkswagen.

ASSIST Additive Manufacturing for Lighting Consortium: We are a member of the consortium, organized by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) Lighting Research Center (LRC). The goal of the consortium is to understand the impact additive manufacturing has on the lighting, building, and construction industries, and to collaborate to “shape the future of lighting.”

GE Additive Manufacturing Partners Network: In 2018, we became one of the first companies to join GE Additive’s Manufacturing Partner Network (MPN), committing to invest in GE Additive equipment, materials, software, and technology. As part of the agreement, we used the GE Additive equipment and technology as a development platform, to scale production and industrialization of all work that is referred through the MPN.

GE Additive’s hope for MPN is that it enables 3D printing’s next step, transitioning 3DP from primarily a prototyping technology to a volume production process. This partnership with GE Additive builds on our strategy to continue developing and expanding its service offerings of industrial-grade 3D printing technologies.

3D printing facility
Our company's active collaboration with manufacturing partners to advance our industry was recognized by the NAM award, including our work in additive manufacturing. Our industrial-grade additive manufacturing is available on a broad scale, as seen here at our facility in Raleigh, NC. Six different additive methods are available.

HP Multi Jet Fusion technology: Before introducing any manufacturing process at our company, we execute thorough testing to develop a repeatable process and ensure we can meet our quality standards. In 2017, we announced we had been selected by HP Inc. as a product testing site for the printing and PC giant’s new HP Multi Jet Fusion technology for industrial-grade 3D printing. We were one of several companies HP worked with as part of HP’s Early Customer Engagement Program, which conducts product testing and garners user feedback. We were chosen because of our extensive experience as a prime user of industrial-grade 3D printing technology for our prototyping and low-volume manufacturing services. Later that year, we fully rolled out the technology to all customers.

NAM: Our President and CEO, Vicki Holt, is a member of the National Association of Manufacturers’ board, serving as the Vice Chair for small and medium manufacturers. Holt notes the role has given her an opportunity to gain insights into issues important to manufacturers. One such issue is education, and the importance of having an educational system that allows us to develop strong technical skills in young people. “Gaining access to a skilled workforce, and being able to attract and retain talented people in manufacturing, are critical issues. By participating in NAM, it has given me a chance to influence the perception of manufacturing and how we need to create a growing, flourishing manufacturing community.”

Terry Wohlers DfAM event: Industry and technical experts from the esteemed Wohlers Associates group collaborated with our company to host an intensive course at our 3D printing facility in Raleigh, NC, on design for additive manufacturing in early 2019. Our customers traveled from all over the United States to take part in the 2.5-day event, which consisted of comprehensive insight into the state of the 3D printing industry, technical videos, capability overview, design challenges, tours, future state industry considerations, and insights on where 3D printing fits into the broader manufacturing landscape.

PolyOne and 3M: We joined forces with PolyOne and 3M to develop and offer a system that drastically reduces the time it takes to mold short-run plastic parts in precise colors. One-size-fits-all mass production has given way to mass customization and product personalization, and this offering is a prime example of the types of services needed to satisfy the needs of the trend.

Cool Idea Award: Our Cool Idea Award is a manufacturing grant intended to help early-stage startups and entrepreneurs bring their products to market. Since its inception in 2011, our program has awarded more than $1 million in manufacturing services to innovative thinkers who can use their grant towards building prototypes or even an initial production run.

Affiliations: Many of our employees are members of affiliations that enable them to stay abreast of the latest industry advancements and connect with other like-minded professionals. Some examples of these professional affiliations include: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASM International, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Society of Plastics Engineers, IEEE Robotics & Automation.

We are proud of the partnerships and collaborations that have enabled us to improve our offerings, remain a leader in the space, and ultimately, serve as a trusted partner to you.

Our company will be recognized at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala virtual event in October. Details on attending the virtual gala are available here.

To read more about our previous Manufacturing Leadership Awards recognition, please click on the links below:

2015: Innovation Process Leadership and Manufacturer of the Year

2016: Customer Value Leadership

2017: Talent Management Leadership

2018: Operational Excellence Leadership

2019: Engineering and Production Technology

Sarah Ekenberg is the Marketing Manager, PR & Media at Protolabs. She has been at Protolabs since 2011 and is responsible for developing and leading the implementation of the Americas' public relations and partnerships strategy and supporting plans and programs.